An Informal Q&A With
Jenny Newman, Producer of The Modern Library Awards
By Mary Alice Davidson, Publisher, Strategic Library
Q: For those who aren’t familiar with the Modern Library Awards, can you tell us a bit about the program?
A: I’d be delighted! We started the Modern Library Awards – or MLAs – last year to recognize elite products in the library marketplace. The LibraryWorks readership, 80,000 library professionals across all types of libraries – public, academic, K-12, and special – are a passionate, engaged group. They are very involved in the industry and on top of changing technology and trends. We thought it was time we gave them a chance to have their voices heard about the library hardware, software, furnishings and automation that makes their libraries the centerpiece of their community or campus.
Q: It’s hard to believe that it’s been about a year since I last interviewed you about what was then a brand-new awards program. Tell me how your inaugural year went.
A: It was a whirlwind! When we initially sat down with LibraryWorks execs and planned this program, we anticipated 15 or 20 entries our first year. Boy, were we off base with that prediction. We ended up with 46 applicants! Of those, 37 products were awarded with either the Platinum, Gold or Silver award. The judges were fair and unbiased and there were strong final scores.
The special issue of Library Product News was a huge hit and the leads it generated were some of the best we’ve ever seen from any of our LibraryWorks programs. But the kicker, for me at least, was opening night of ALA Midwinter in Chicago (just as reports of the blizzard were coming in!) when we distributed the gorgeous crystal trophies to all exhibiting honorees, along with some eye-catching signage. The trophies really created a buzz in the Exhibit Hall and the honorees were so proud to display them.
Q: So are there any changes from last year’s program?
A: Oh, yes! Last year, applicants received an overall aggregate score after the judging was over. This year, in addition to the aggregate score, we will let each applicant know how they scored on each of the questions posed to the judges. Additionally, the judging form will include an optional question that asks judges to provide feedback on their experience with the product. This is valuable and unbiased customer feedback! What a great way to do some very low-cost research on customer satisfaction.
Q: But let’s say that I only have one product and last year I was honored with an MLA. Besides the customer feedback you just mentioned, is there any other reason why I should enter the same product again?
A: Absolutely. Being a 2016 honoree is terrific but who doesn’t want to be able to promote their product as a multi-year award honoree? As part of their award package, we will include an award logo that will include verbiage that they are a 2016 and a 2017 honoree. Also, our special edition of Library Product News will make a distinction for multi-year honorees.
Q: And what if you don’t score high enough to be awarded an MLA? What’s the risk?
A: There is absolutely no risk. We don’t publish or announce in any way a list of everyone who entered the program. However, you can use that feedback to improve or amend your current product – so you still get some consulting from a panel of users.
Q: If I manufacture a product, a scanner or maybe ILS software, am I competing directly against my competition? In other words, are the judges ranking products by type?
A: No, they aren’t. Each product is judged on its own merit.
Q: So, bottom line: if I enter a product and I am awarded, let’s say “Gold,” what next?
A: Oh, this is the fun part! In October, we would send you an awards package via email that will include your scores and feedback from the judges, along with an MLA Gold Honoree logo that you can use in all your marketing promotions – your website, email blasts, printed literature – you get the idea. Shout it from the rooftops that you've just been voted a Gold honoree by the librarian community! We’ll also include a sample press release that you can modify for your own use. Any testimonials from the judges can be used in your press, marketing and social media efforts.
But that’s just the beginning. You’ll also be included as a Gold honoree with a write-up in the special Library Product News supplement I mentioned, which is delivered to LibraryWorks’ 80,000+ subscribers in January. And of course, the lovely crystals delivered personally to your booth by LibraryWorks staff (photo-op!) or shipped to your corporate HQ.
Q: Last question, How do I apply?
A: It’s very easy and takes about 10 minutes. If you are a vendor with an existing product in the library marketplace, just fill out the application at and submit along with a small processing fee. We will then add your product(s) to a judging form that deploys to our readers along with no more than seven other products. Our readers rate each product based on criteria about quality, service, functionality, value, etc. We make sure each product is judged by a true-user audience and meets statistical accuracy. Judges scores are on a 1-10 scale in half-point increments. Scores are then averaged, and issued to the company with recognition as a Platinum, Gold or Silver award honoree based on their score.
Applications for 2017 Modern Library Awards will be accepted beginning on September 1, 2016. Please direct all questions about the MLAs to Jenny Newman at or 240.354.1281.